By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
Father Elmer Herrera-Guzman calls May 30, 2020 one of the happiest days of his life.
A native of El Salvador who moved to the Dallas area at the age of 12, Father Herrera-Guzman joined five others that day who were ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Edward J. Burns at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Frisco.
“There was no place in this world where I could be happier,” Father Herrera-Guzman recalled.
The young priest said he knows it was the people in the pews that helped make that special day possible — both through their prayers and through their support of the Bishop’s Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries.
“The generosity of so many souls comes together and helps move each part of One Body, One Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Father Herrera-Guzman of the appeal. “Just a year ago, I was a seminarian and benefitted from such gifts which allowed me to fulfill my call and now serve.”
The Bishop’s Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries is a yearly fundraising campaign, supporting priestly vocations and other ongoing ministries and programs throughout the Diocese of Dallas. On Jan. 30-31, “Commitment Weekend,” parishioners are asked to pledge to the 2021 Bishop’s Annual Appeal and can do so at Mass or online at dallasbishopsappeal.com.
“This past year has tested our strength and our unity. From social unrest, to natural disasters, to the devastating effects of the pandemic, this year felt unlike any other. It was a challenge. Yet, our faith reminds us that there is always hope amid the darkness,” said Bishop Edward J. Burns in a call to the faithful to support the appeal. “As the needs increased this past year both spiritually and financially, so too has my commitment to meeting those needs with hope and generosity.”
Support of the appeal helps fund vocation programs such as the education of more than 75 men discerning the priesthood, ongoing formation for current priests and future deacons as well as funding for priest retirement. In 2020, even as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many lives, support of the Bishop’s Annual Appeal allowed the Diocese of Dallas to ordain 20 new permanent deacons in addition to those six new priests.
“For this alone, the Bishop’s Annual Appeal should be supported by all,” said Father Jason Cargo, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson, noting that support of the appeal benefits the formation of seminarians, who will be the future priests of the diocese. “And yet, the Bishop’s Annual Appeal provides funds for so much more.”
The appeal does more than just simply fund ministries, though. It empowers those ministries to help others throughout the diocese.
“Many people in the pews will simply see an envelope or an email, but it is actually the path that allowed so many to receive the sacraments from newly ordained and to care for all the moving parts of our own body,” said Father Herrera-Guzman, who also is a member of a team of diocesan priests who has been able to visit and minister to the sick in local hospitals thanks in part to the ongoing support the appeal. “The Bishop’s Annual Appeal is how we help ourselves help others in their needs.”
The appeal also provides funds for diocesan offices of Worship, Faith Formation, Marriage and Family Life, and Youth and Young Adults.
In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, support of the appeal allowed the diocese to:
- partner with The Catholic Foundation to broadcast televised Masses each Sunday to the homebound and those unable to participate in Masses during the pandemic,
- provide food and shelter to thousands of local families in need through the efforts of Catholic Charities Dallas,
- launch two mobile food trucks and open the St. Jude Center, a permanent housing center for the homeless,
- equip parish ministers with virtual ongoing professional development training, and
- equip principals and administrators with plans needed to provide safe and effective learning environments during the pandemic for the 15,000 students in Catholic schools within the diocese.
“The Bishop’s Annual Appeal supports the shared Catholic Ministries that none of our parishes could do on their own,” said Kelly Halaszyn, Diocese of Dallas director of development. “It takes the generosity of all of us to make that happen.”
Father John Szatkowski, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Richardson, agreed, saying that support of the appeal directly impacts many aspects of parish communities.
“I am particularly grateful for the assistance St. Paul has received from our Catholic Schools Office the past few years as we worked together to strengthen my parochial school,” Father Szatkowski said. “The great work of our CSO across the diocese is only possible through supporting the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.”
Father Cargo noted that as Catholics it is the responsibility of the lay faithful to support their local parish and the Diocese of Dallas in the ongoing work of bringing Jesus Christ to the people.
“Many of the ministries that are supported through the Bishop’s Annual Appeal simply can not be provided on the parish level,” explained Father Cargo, adding that as a priest and pastor, he sees first hand the work of these ministries. “The Diocese of Dallas provides support to parishes through lending their expertise in finances, purchasing, business, education, law, marriage, outreach to hospitals and prisons and other pastoral ministries.
“Most recently the pastoral center of the diocese has provided great support through the pandemic,” Father Cargo added. “I personally receive so much benefit from the ongoing formation program that the diocese provides her priests. All of these and more are reasons to support the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.”